Top 6 Trap and Shoulder Exercises

Top 6 Trap and Shoulder Exercises

Let's Hit Traps and Shoulders

Why Isolate the Shoulders?

Shoulders are one of the most important muscles to develop for any athlete, as they are utilized in every upper body movement.

They offer support to any weight-bearing activity in day-to-day life and in the gym. Strong shoulders and trap muscles are vital in bearing the weight of heavy barbell squats.

1. Barbell Power Press

The power press is a great exercise for developing raw power and total body strength while also forcing the shoulders into growth.

Follow the steps below to strengthen your shoulders and traps:

  • To execute the movement, rack a barbell at about chest level.
  • When you are ready to perform your set, place your hands in a medium width grip—about the same positioning utilized for bench-pressing, or slightly closer.
  • Remove the barbell from the rack and hold it at chest level.
  • While holding the barbell in place, lower your hips about 80 degrees—not quite as deep as a full squat but enough to generate serious force and leverage.
  • Explosively ascend from this crouched position, and use the momentum to shoot the barbell overhead momentarily, holding the barbell in this position with both arms fully extended.
  • You have now completed one repetition. Repeat for desired repetitions, and rack the barbell.
  • For this set, you should do 3–5 reps per set, for a total of five sets. Rest for 1–3 minutes between each set. (SunWarrior, 2022)

2. Upright Rows Super Set Shrugs


The barbell shrug is an excellent exercise for building the trapezius muscles and upper back and for developing grip strength and muscular endurance.

Here are the steps to do it correctly:

    • To perform a shrug, utilize a grip just slightly wider than recommended for the upright rows and lower the bar to just below waist level.
    • Utilizing your trapezius muscles, raise the barbell about two inches up, while also bringing your elbows into your waist.
    • Lower and repeat for desired repetitions. (SunWarrior, 2022) 


3. Front Deltoid Dumbbell Raise Super Set with Rear Deltoid Dumbbell Raise

Front Deltoid Dumbbell Raise

The front deltoid raise is a great supplementary movement that targets the front head of the deltoid.

When performing a front deltoid raise, grab dumbbells you can use in the 10–12 repetition range with proper technique. It is not recommended to go overly heavy with this movement.

Do this range of motion exercise by following the steps below:

  • To execute the movement, you start with both dumbbells resting at hip level.
  • Begin the movement by raising one arm until it is fully extended, pointing straight ahead at chest level.
  • Lower the weight and repeat the same process on the opposite arm. 

Rear Deltoid Dumbbell Raise

The rear deltoid raise is an excellent supplementary movement for developing the rear deltoids—a trouble spot for many athletes to build. You will use even lighter weights than what you use with the front deltoid raises, as this movement is very taxing on a small, isolated muscle.

Here’s what you have to do for this shoulder and trap exercise:

    • To perform these movements, start with the dumbbells resting at waist level.
    • Start the movement by raising both of your arms out and away from your body, and continue to raise them in a slow, concentrated motion until they have extended all the way to a parallel T shape.
    • Lower the weight. (SunWarrior, 2022) 

4. Barbell Plate Burnout

This exercise works great at the end of a tough shoulder workout—prompting a serious “pump” and pushing you to the limits of your muscular endurance.

Grab a barbell plate bearing a weight you can manage for five continuous minutes and set an interval timer or simply look at a clock on the wall as I do.

Every 30 seconds, execute a different movement for the full five-minute duration.

You can mix up any of the exercises outlined above with full body movement such as squats. (SunWarrior, 2022) 

6. Seated Side Lateral Dumbbell Raise

Another one of the shoulders and traps exercises I like to do on an interval weekly basis is this move. Aside from working out the traps and shoulders, you can also build mass in your side delts.

To do this shoulder and traps workout, follow the steps below:

    • Rest your arms holding the dumbbells at your sides as the starting position, keeping your feet firmly on the ground.
    • Keep your back straight as you raise your right arm towards the side to make a 90-degree angle with your body. Your elbow should be slightly bent as if your arm was pouring a drink.
    • Lower your arm to the starting position as slowly as you can.
    • Do three sets of this exercise with 10-12 repetitions for each set.  (SunWarrior, 2022) 

6. Low Cable Pulley Upright Row

The upright row helps tie in together your traps to your front and side delts. If you’re only starting to build mass in your shoulders and traps, this movement is great for you.

To do this exercise, you need to use a low cable pulley or a barbell. Follow the steps below for this workout:

  • Set the pulley to the cable closest to the middle of your thigh.
  • For the starting position, lift the bar up while keeping your back straight and your arms extended. Keep in mind that your elbows should bend slightly.
  • Exhale slowly as you lift the bar using your shoulder muscles. Lift the bar up until it reaches your chin while making sure it stays close to your body.
  • Inhale as you lower the bar back to its starting position.
  • You should also do 10-12 reps for three sets. (SunWarrior, 2022) 
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